MTA Board to Vote on Moving Bus Turnaround to Make Way for TOD

muni.jpgClick to enlarge: The new Phelan Bus Loop would circle the firehouse at the northwest corner of Ocean and Phelan Avenues. Image: Google Maps.
The MTA Board will vote tomorrow on whether to sell a bus turnaround near Balboa Park station to make room for an 80-unit affordable housing and retail mixed-use development and new open space. The Balboa Park Station Area Plan, which was completed earlier this year and aims to promote transit-oriented development and improved pedestrians conditions in the neighborhood, identified the Phelan Bus Loop at Ocean Avenue between Lee and Harold Avenues as a prime spot for redevelopment.

With the MTA's authorization, the city would sell the property to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency for $4.35 million, its appraised market value. The money would go towards construction of a new bus loop on a lot adjacent to the current loop, and the MTA would get $1,647,000 of that money up front for design and development of the new turnaround. The new loop would circle the firehouse at the northwest corner of Ocean and Phelan Avenues, immediately to the east of the current loop.

According to a memo of understanding (MOU) between the MTA, the city, the Mayor's Office of Housing, and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the total cost of relocating the loop is estimated at about $9 million, leaving a multimillion-dollar gap that the MTA will need to make up through other sources, which can't include the agency's operating funds. If the MTA can't secure funding within 42 months, the deal will be voided. Muni would then return the funds, keep the current loop and pay for the new loop design costs itself. MTA spokesperson Judson True said he's confident the agency will secure the funds in time, and said the agency has already identified likely local, state, and federal funding sources.

If the MTA succeeds in finding a funding source to make up the gap, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and Mercy Housing California, both non-profit housing developers, will then construct new affordable housing on the site, and a new public plaza would be built on leftover space, all of which is called for in the Planning Department's Balboa Park Station Area Plan.

"This is a great example of transit-oriented development and we're pleased to be working with our city partners on this project," said True. "Having the land that actually fronts Ocean Avenue go for housing and retail makes sense."

In addition to supporting transit-oriented development, Muni will get an upgraded turnaround out of the deal, according to the MOU. That would include an operator restroom, upgraded boarding islands, and wide sidewalks, among other improvements, without impacting Muni service.